Department of Veterans Affairs officials are working to significantly reduce the average time needed to obtain health-care records from private physicians with the help of a private contractor and the Internet to speed claims decisions. One innovation is using a private contractor to assist VA officials in collecting health-care records. When private medical records support a veteran’s application for benefits, a contractor will quickly retrieve the records from the health-care provider, scan them into a digital format and send the material to VA through a secure transmission. VA officials emphasize that in all cases veterans must sign documents approving the release of their medical records to the department from private health-care providers. The test is expected to involve about 60,000 records requests among regional benefits offices in Phoenix; New York City; St. Louis; Portland, Ore.; Chicago; Anchorage, Alaska; Indianapolis, and Jackson, Miss. At the conclusion of the test, VA officials will decide whether to cancel, modify or expand any changes in procedures nationwide. For more info, please see: www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123232623.